Being new in town means the ever frustrating adventure of finding a church to attend regularly. I suppose for some that would be relatively easy for they were born into and raised within THEIR denomination. They have been and will be that denomination for life so they find that denomination's local congregation and that's that, or maybe they have to pick between two or three nearby. However, for those of us who were raised in various protestant denominations, bouncing from one to another, and continuing that pattern into adulthood it ain't that easy.
I start by looking up information about churches in the area. First of all, I can immediately cross off my list of churches to try any that are doctrinely just too different from me. Although I could easily write a whole post devoted to doctrine that isn't where I want to go in this post. Assuming I find a church that is close enough in doctrine for me (and truly I've never found a church whose doctrine entirely matches my personal beliefs) to be comfortable worshiping there then the following things are important to me (in order that I think of them, not in order fo importance to me) in my decision to attend:
- Right mix of traditional/contemporary elements to the service.
- Following a standard order of service rather than mixing it up every week.
- No applause in church, although even I can make exceptions for special circumstances like responding to the announcement that someone is celebrating a 50th anniversary or something like that.
- A relatively small congregation, somewhere in the 100-200 range.
- Children's programs for N that are engaging to him.
- Hymns, hymns, hymns - a mix of traditional and contemporary, lots of them during the service. I love to sing.
- Varied fellowship activities like coffee hour before or after services, potlucks, dinners for 8, service projects, game nights, anything that brings people from the congregation together outside of formal worship.
- Bible studies and adult Sunday school classes.
- People who reach out to say hello to you when you're new, not just the standard shake-your-hand-say-good-morning greeters, but others that walk up and introduce themselves.
- Although not a necessity I love a church where all the members wear nametags. Makes learning names for those who are less than stellar at name memory much easier (and less embarassing than asking over and over for someone to tell you once again who they are).
- No embarassing of visitors by making them stand up and be recognized. Ewwwww, I hate that. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Make me do that, and I'll likely not attend again.
- Warm welcoming friendly people who don't act like you're trying to horn your way into their private club. If a church is too insular or to cliqueish (don't think I spelled that right, but oh well) then I won't like it. I've spent too much of my life feeling like I was the oddball standing on the sidelines looking in. I certainly don't need to feel that way at church.
- I love Sunday night and Wednesday night services, but they seem to be getting scarcer and scarcer. I'll even settle for other activities on these two nights like Bible studies or fellowship activities or even choir rehearsal, but dang it give me something on those two nights each week. I attended one church that held Wednesday Night Dinners that were followed by various activities for all ages, classes and Bible studies and the like. It was good. I liked it. They also didn't have a formal Sunday evening service, but they did have a small group that met in the sanctuary on Sunday nights for praise singing and Bible study. I was fine with that. It was nice. After both of those things fell by the wayside, I didn't stay much longer at that church.
BTW, I'm blogging about this to avoid the big issues in my life. I know I am. So sue me.